RSS summer camps are coming back in virtual format

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 4, 2020

SALISBURY – With summer approaching and the school year’s end coming on an odd note,  Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Horizons Unlimited is bringing back its annual summer camps with a twist.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, so all of this year’s camps have been adapted to distance learning.

That includes a culinary camp where students will pick up a bag of ingredients, then spend the next week being guided virtually through preparing a meal from what they were given each night for a week. It also covers cooking fundamentals like knife skills.

Another camp blends nature and art, with a bonus goal of helping students turn their yards into wildlife habitats, and there is a camp called “grossology,” which will take students on a tour through what most would consider disgusting via arts and crafts.

The camps are part of the all-distance learning summer programming district administration has discussed during recent meetings. The change was made to comply with COVID-19 guidelines and keep the students and faculty involved safe.

Horizons Director Amy Pruitt said faculty are meeting with students virtually. Neil Pifer, who is running the culinary camp, is making himself available to students each day at 3 p.m. when meal prep begins.

Pruitt said the camp subjects are supposed to be appealing to students, so they will be learning even if they do not realize it.

There are nine different camps to choose from, with small fees that vary for each and multiple weeks to participate in each, not including the Salisbury High School STEM camp.

Kyle Whisenant, an instructional specialist at Horizons, runs the Salisbury camp. He hires teachers for the camp, they are able to teach any subject they like as long as it is STEM-related and are given a budget.

This year students will be learning about structural engineering and build structures to see if they can withstand natural disasters.

There will also be a survivor camp where students learn wilderness survival skills and apply scientific ideas like waxing canvas to waterproof it and building solar ovens.

“In years past we’ve done aerodynamics, we’ve done coding, we’ve done forensics,” Whisenant said, adding the best thing about past years was the district could take students on field trips to see the concepts being taught at the camp, but the scope of the camp has been narrowed this year.

Whisenant is also teaching a game design camp this year and students will use the education software Bloxels to create a simple video game and learn some coding fundamentals.

Despite the changes, Pruitt is happy with how the camps have turned out this year. She said one parent commented she was impressed with how Horizons pivoted this year to adapt to distance learning. She gives the credit for creative programming to her staff.

Pruitt also pointed out some advantages to distance learning, noting that students in different age groups would be more likely to participate in different camps because they are outside of the classroom, and that remote learning helps teachers connect with parents.

Camp information including available dates and prices are posted on the RSS website at


About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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